Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Marilyn Pastiche

 This post should have been titled 'When will they stop dragging Marilyn's name through the mud?' and the answer would be, not as long as there's a steady cash flow. It's difficult to say exactly when the Marilyn pastiche phenomenon began, one could argue that it started with her first unadulterated appearance in Playboy when in 1953, though the photographs published were actually taken 5 years prior when she was virtually unrecognizable, it marked the first time Marilyn's image was multiplied for the visual pleasure of others. Most could say that it initiated upon the release of The Seven Year Itch (1956) with mile-high billboards of her standing over a subway grate with wind blowing her lush white dress over her head, bright red lipstick adorning her effervescent smile. Basically, whenever it occurred, it was eventually going to surpass the human manifestation of its source. Marilyn's iconography has greatly exceeded any tangible conception that we as the public might associate with her.

It is believed that Marilyn herself was caught up in an identity crisis unable to disassociate her human attainability with her post-human superior celluloid sainthood. But we are not doing her any favors by chalking up flimsy and misguided 'bio's' of periods in her life in which she was at her most vulnerable and predictably self-destructive and then blaming the very methods we are using for destroying her. 
First of all, that whole vulnerability angle is highly exaggerated and quite frankly a very simplistic way of looking at it. Yes, people are sensitive, particularly when they are under such immense pressure and scrutiny; loneliness, self-loathing, and despair ultimately become part of the equation, usually yielding tragic results, but this isn't a high school psychology tutorial. 
Secondly, no one seems to be sticking to one thing or the other; pastiche vs. humanity. Everyone from Smash (2012 - ) to My Week with Marilyn (2011) is attempting to provide a confluence of the two, but that's highly improbable and doesn't make any sense. One must consider either the icon in it's manufactured and inorganic manifestation, or the person behind said incarnation. In a post-human sense, the two are fundamentally different. 
The 'Marilyn' from which everybody is eagerly picking from is the representative illustration of a concept she had created as her cinematic identity. The person herself is in actuality a lot more complex than the bland and banal exploits of current films and television programs on the subject. 

Thus, the Marilyn Pastiche is born. It is a literal jumble of ideas and hypotheses marrying the real with the unreal the intangible with the historical, attempting to create a more three dimensional, poignant, and explanatory portraiture of the existence of one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century.
Why Marilyn is such an easy and popular target is because storyteller's framework functions to make public the private lives of iconic cultural representatives. With someone like Marilyn Monroe who's name and image is synonymous with pop-culture itself, it is undeniably tempting to try to discern the humanity behind the image. But when done with minimal guidance and proper historical citation, it becomes what we refer to as a pastiche, or in this case a pastiche's pastiche. It's a copy of a copy and thereby is highly irreverent and predictably inferior. I for one am tired of it, and practically intolerant to people passing these faux-intellectual and overly sentimental caricatures as insightful and researched portraiture. It's always a case of 'Marilyn: Behind the Scenes' but the behind the scenes part isn't even close to being genuine enough to be considered authentic. It's part of the hyper-extended reality that is created within the Marilyn pastiche that poses as fact but is a product of second-hand storytelling. Even the protagonist played by Eddie Redmayne (Colin Clark) who's first-hand experience with Marilyn Monroe is documented in the film My Week with Marilyn (2011) is only a very skewed and narrow view of the person she might have been. True to the title, he did only spend one week with her. I've spent months with people without ever learning their last name, doesn't make me an expert on their psychology.

This goes without saying that the Marilyn pastiche is unavoidable. It's fantastic fodder for people strapped for creative material because it's endlessly enigmatic. There's plenty of subjective drama one can add to such a tragic story coupled with such a high pedigree of iconography, and an attempt at coupling the two; making Marilyn both the mile-high billboard and the scared little girl lost is a promisingly fruitful challenge, but in my opinion, no one as of yet has risen to it.

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